"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Listen to This (Random Quotes) #5

BUILDING SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

Defeating the DeVos Agenda

Competing on an uneven playing field, public school corporations have taken to advertising in order to keep their students from going to charter schools or using vouchers to attend private schools. Instead, John Merrow offers additional advice on how to "advertise" by involving community members, especially those who have no current connections to the public schools.

Public schools belong to their communities, not to the school board members, or the parents of current students. Schools are investments in a community's future, paid for by everyone, for the benefit of everyone. Closing schools and opening charters, or offering vouchers, is taking years of community investment and throwing it away.

From John Merrow
Only when ‘outsiders’ become convinced that what’s happening in our public schools is not just test-prep and rote learning pushed on sullen teenagers by demoralized instructors, only then will Betsy DeVos and her militant Christian army of ideologues and profiteers lose this war.


TEACHING THE ARTS

Piecemeal Privatization of Arts and Music in Public Schools

The latest Kappan (April, 2017) is focused on the Arts.

Many school systems in the U.S. have had to cut back on their arts programming due to budget cuts and the obsessive focus on reading and math. Music and art teachers are stretched thin trying to educate large numbers of children in areas that aren't tested, and therefore, not considered important by "reformers." Articles in the journal discuss the influx of public/private partnerships which are replacing in-house education specialists in places. Nancy Bailey acknowledges that these partnerships are beneficial where no arts programming exists, but the loss of the arts programming is the real problem.

From Nancy Bailey
This country needs to quit with the trickery. Pretending the arts are returning with partnerships, or through subject integration, or technology, is only a charade. Our tax dollars should go directly to public schools for these programs and to real arts and music teachers.

EDUCATION AS A PUBLIC GOOD

Truth in Edvertising

Are private and privately run schools better than traditional public schools, or do they just have better PR and better advertising? Traditional schools don't usually spend money on advertising because money spent on advertising isn't spent on instruction.

Are schools commodities like widgets, where money needs to be spent on advertising? If we, as a society, accept the marketplace version of education...if we accept that competition improves education...if we accept that it's up to the parent to find the school with the best "fit" for their child...then public education will probably not be a priority.

On the other hand, if we accept that public education benefits the whole society...that public education is a public good, then we won't waste money on advertising, and the "bottom line" will be educating our children, not turning a profit.

From Sarah Butler Jessen on Have You Heard Blog and Podcast
There’s been a lot of talk about how much money they [Success Academy] spend. We were able to look at some of their budgets from the 2012 and 2013 year, along with a bunch of other charter management and charter organizations in New York City authorized by SUNY. Again, as we raised in recent earlier article about the 2010 data, in Williamsburg and Cobble Hill in particular in that year, they're spending more than $1,000 per entered student on marketing alone.


LACK OF SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION IS BIPARTISAN

Democrats link party rivals to DeVos as 2018 fights emerge

In Indiana it's the Republicans who support so-called "education reforms" which have the effect of damaging public education, deprofessionalizing public school teachers, and re-segregating our schools. But it's not just a Republican movement. It's bipartisan. There are Democrats across the nation who are apparently hell-bent on replacing public education with privatized, corporate, charter schools.

Cory Booker (and here)...Andrew Cuomo...Rahm Emanuel...

From Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association
“What’s happened over time is that we have seen the Legislature has changed very significantly, and we’ve really seen that among Democrats, we have just many more folks that are supportive of charter schools,” he said. "Do these national winds, do they affect things here? Absolutely, absolutely. But it’s not like we’re just going to be blown across the map.”

Still, Wallace suspected charter school opponents would view DeVos’ appointment as a political opportunity to cut into charter schools’ gains.

“Yeah, that’s going to happen, and we have to be aware of that,” he said.


POLITICS

Trump Restocks the Swamp

President Trump promised to "drain the swamp" telling the American people that the government wouldn't be made up of special interests and their lobbyists.

From Ed Brayton
[Trump] criticized Obama for his lack of transparency, yet just reversed the policy of releasing visitor logs so the public could know if the president or his close advisers were meeting with lobbyists and others with a clear stake in public policy. And a man whose big selling point was that he was rich so he would not be beholden to big corporations and the wealthy. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to name a single thing he’s done since taking office that wasn’t what moneyed interests would want him to to in order to make him more money.

Update for Trump Voters

From Robert Reich
He said he’d clean the Washington swamp. You bought it. Then he brought into his administration more billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history, to make laws that will enrich their businesses.

...He said Clinton was in the pockets of Goldman Sachs, and would do whatever they said. You bought it. Then he put half a dozen Goldman Sachs executives in positions of power in his administration.

PRE-SCHOOL IN INDIANA

IN: Welcome UPSTART Pre-K Cyberschool

Putting a three- or four-year-old in front of a computer screen and calling it "pre-school" is the most insane thing to come out of the education "reform" cesspool.

From Peter Greene
...we're assured that UPSTART will provide "program sponsors" with data. Because, you know, it's never too early to start building your tiny human's data file, so that the trouble she had picking out vowel sounds when she was four flippin' years old can follow her around for the rest of her life.

In Indiana, the legislature wants to make UPSTART part of the Pre-K expansion bill.

TESTING AND MANDATES

Standardized Testing Creates Captive Markets

The Republicans have railed for years against the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and it's forced health insurance mandates. Yet, forced testing mandates, which every state must waste tax dollars on, is supported.

A must read...

From Steven Singer
The reason public schools give these tests is because the government forces them. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requires that all students in grades 3-8 and once in high school take certain approved standardized assessments. Parents are allowed to refuse the tests for their children, but otherwise they have to take them.


TENURE AGAIN STILL

Teacher Tenure and Seniority Lawsuits: A Failure of Logic

They're not giving up. Even after the Vergara Decision was overturned anti-teacher forces are still fighting against tenure and seniority. Their goal – the complete destruction of teachers unions at any cost, even if it means also destroying the teaching profession.

From Jersey Jazzman
The backers of these lawsuits will make occasional concessions to the idea that schools need adequate and equitable funding to attract qualified people into teaching. But they never seem to be interested in underwriting lawsuits that would get districts like Newark the funds they need to improve both the compensation and the working conditions of teachers.


THE FEDERAL ROLE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION

The War on Public Schools

The Federal government has helped public education by requiring equal access to educational opportunities for all children regardless of race, sex, or disabilities. They have provided funds for disadvantaged students, for teacher preparation and continuing education, and materials.

With No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Common Core, the Federal government increased it's influence on public education, but evoked a backlash. It's true that some Federal intrusion into public education is necessary and important...

From the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights quoted in the American Prospect
The hard-learned lesson of the civil rights community over decades has shown that a strong federal role is crucial to protecting the interests of educationally underserved students

'REFORM'

Closing schools is not an educational option

No school was ever improved by closing it.

From Mitchell Robinson in Eclectablog
Whenever I hear public officials and education policy decision makers suggest that closing schools is a legitimate strategy, I know that person is not serious about actually improving educational outcomes.


🎧🎧🎧

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Punishing Third Graders – Again, and Again, and Again

THIRD GRADE PUNISHMENT LAWS

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Nick Chiles has an article in the Hechinger Report on Mississippi's third grade punishment law, which, like a similar law in Indiana, makes third graders repeat the grade if they fail a standardized reading test in third grade.

The article focuses on schools in extreme high-poverty counties, in a state where nearly a third of children younger than 18 live in poverty.

What makes Mississippi's third grade punishment law particularly pernicious is the fact that it doesn't end once a child is retained. Repeated retentions are allowed (the article notes that four other states, Florida, North Carolina, Indiana, and Oklahoma, have the same allowances for multiple retentions – aka child abuse).


Is repeating third grade — again and again — good for kids?
...those youngsters who were held back last year can be held back a second time if they can’t pass the test this go-round. That shouldn’t happen if there is any value to Bryant’s idea that holding students back for a year and giving them extra help will improve their literacy...
The "Bryant" in this article is Mississippi Governor, Phil Bryant, a self-proclaimed third grade repeater who claims that he "benefited greatly" by repeating third grade.

It's possible that Governor Bryant survived undamaged his third grade retention, and even thrived as an elementary school student, but his personal experience doesn't negate years of research into grade retention. Neither should his experience at one elementary school in Sunflower County Mississippi be used to justify retaining thousands of Mississippi children who struggle to learn to read.

Bryant thinks that "holding students back for a year and giving them extra help" is all that's needed to improve achievement. First of all, this former deputy sheriff, turned insurance investigator, turned politician, has no background in education and has apparently done no research into the dangers of grade retention.

Second, he's wrong.
...said Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (also known as FairTest), the advocacy group that has long fought against the widespread use of standardized tests. “In Florida, they found higher test scores in the beginning for the kids who were held back, but the gains dissipated over a few years.”
It's not just in Florida. Research has shown that retained students often show short term improvement, but the long term effects of retention are generally negative, including continued low achievement and higher than average drop-out rate (which increases to more than 90% for children retained more than once).


TEACH READING, NOT TEST-TAKING...
Neill says the fact that fewer kids were held back last year may be a result of improved reading skills, but could also be “because teachers are prepping them better for the test.”
Standardized tests measure household income, so it's no wonder that schools with high rates of child poverty have plenty of low scorers. One of the schools discussed in the article by Chiles, had a 100% free and reduced lunch population.

This doesn't mean that schools shouldn't try to do all they can to help high-poverty students learn. It does mean, however, that, until the economic playing field has been leveled, the academic playing field will remain uneven. It means that it's unreasonable to expect schools to carry the entire burden of responsibility for the effects of poverty. It means that it's unreasonable to punish students for failure to pass a single, arbitrary, achievement test.

Students ought not to be labeled "failures" based on a questionable assessment, and then punished by an outmoded and damaging "intervention" because they are taking longer than a bureaucratically assigned time to learn to read. Higher test scores do not necessarily indicate more or better learning. Standardized achievement test scores are not the only measures of a child's success. There's more to education than test scores.


High-poverty students often come into school with fewer academic skills than their wealthier peers.
Robinson said too many of her young students are missing valuable phonemic skills — being able to identify the sound each letter makes — when they first come to Finch in kindergarten. She said the school staff is now concentrating on building a stronger reading foundation before students reach third grade.
Schools ought to concentrate on building a strong foundation for reading in pre-school and kindergarten. Frequent, appropriate assessment is also necessary to monitor a child's progress and guide instruction. But not all children learn at the same rate. Not all children will learn to read in first grade. Not all children will read at "grade-level". There is no pedagogical reason for placing high stakes on reading instruction.

There is no pedagogical reason for placing high stakes on reading instruction.

There is no pedagogical reason for placing high stakes on reading instruction.

...OR COMPUTER SKILLS
What worries Magee is the difficulty too many of her current third graders have taking a test on the computer. Few students have computers at home, so they aren’t used to manipulating the mouse.
Are we testing reading skills, test-taking skills, or computer skills?

Instead of lining corporate (Harcourt Educational Measurement, CTB McGraw-Hill, Riverside Publishing, and NCS Pearson) pockets with millions of tax dollars spent on unnecessary, high stakes, and often inappropriate testing, we should spend our money on appropriate assessments, early intervention, and developmentally appropriate instruction. High stakes testing should be eliminated. Forever.


📊📝📓

Saturday, April 15, 2017

2017 Medley #12: Teachers

Why Teachers Quit, Teacher Evaluations, Teacher Pay, Experience Matters 

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Previous posts about why teachers quit (more).

Many legislators, privatizers, and "reformers" continue to blame teachers for low achievement. Unionism is anathema to some because teachers unions, in many places, are the only thing preventing the compete corporate takeover of public education. The right wing in America continues to push myths about failing public schools and the dual "solution" of charters and vouchers.

The teacher shortage currently afflicting public education in the U.S. is not surprising. Fewer college students are choosing education as a career due to declining wages, fewer benefits, lower social status, and the constant drumbeat of failure (see here, here, and here).

Public schools are not failing. Public schools reflect the failure of the nation to build an equitable society.

Teacher Resignation Letters Paint Bleak Picture of U.S. Education

Studies are showing what public educators already know...that "reform" is driving teachers from the classroom.
In a trio of studies, Michigan State University education expert Alyssa Hadley Dunn and colleagues examined the relatively new phenomenon of teachers posting their resignation letters online. Their findings, which come as many teachers are signing next year’s contracts, suggest educators at all grade and experience levels are frustrated and disheartened by a nationwide focus on standardized tests, scripted curriculum and punitive teacher-evaluation systems.

Teacher turnover costs more than $2.2 billion in the U.S. each year and has been shown to decrease student achievement in the form of reading and math test scores.

“The reasons teachers are leaving the profession has little to do with the reasons most frequently touted by education reformers, such as pay or student behavior,” said Dunn, assistant professor of teacher education. “Rather, teachers are leaving largely because oppressive policies and practices are affecting their working conditions and beliefs about themselves and education.”


Teacher resignation letter goes viral: ‘I will not subject my child to this disordered system’

A teacher from Florida tells why she's leaving.
Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process.

Letter Written Down By A Teacher Goes Viral!

This is not a resignation letter, but this letter from a teacher in Oklahoma is indicative of the problems public school teachers face on a daily basis.
We can no longer afford rolls of colored paper or paint or tape to make signs to support and advertise our Student Council activities. This fall our football team won't charge through a decorated banner as they take the field because we can't afford to make the banner. There won't be any new textbooks in the foreseeable future. Broken desks won't be replaced. We're about to ration copy paper and we've already had the desktop printers taken out of our rooms.

We live in fear that our colleagues will leave us, not just because they are our friends, but because the district wouldn't replace them even if we could lure new teachers to our inner-city schools during the teacher shortage you[, the legislature] have caused. We fear our classes doubling in size.

We fear becoming as ineffective as you are. Not because we can't or won't do our job, like you, but because you keep passing mandates to make us better while taking away all the resources we need just to maintain the status quo. We fear that our second jobs will prevent us from grading the papers we already have to do from home. We fear our families will leave us because we don't have time for them.

TEACHER EVALUATIONS

Teacher Evaluation: It's About Relationships Not Numbers

If we don't use test scores to evaluate teachers what should we use? This question implies that test scores are not only appropriate to use as a teacher evaluation, but there isn't anything else which is as accurate. That's not true. Using student achievement tests to evaluate teachers (or schools) is an invalid since achievement tests are developed to evaluate students, not their teachers.

A good teacher develops relationships with her students. Good relationships improve the classroom atmosphere and create the feelings of safety and trust necessary for learning. The same is necessary for teacher evaluation; there must be a feeling of trust between the evaluator, usually an administrator, and the teacher. Russ Walsh explains...
Reformers can't see this very simple and most basic fact of teacher evaluation because they are focused on a fool's errand of seeking objectivity through numbers and a plan designed to weed out low performers, rather than a plan designed to improve performance of all teachers. These folks could have easily found out the flaws in the plan. All they needed to do was spend some time in schools talking to teachers and supervisors. To the extent that current teacher evaluation schemes interfere with teachers and supervisors developing trusting relationships, they are pre-ordained to fail.


TEACHER PAY

Just Paying Teachers More Won’t Stop Them From Quitting

Ask most teachers. They will tell you that they didn't choose education because of the high pay. Most people who become teachers do so because they want to make a difference in the lives of children.

"Reformers" don't understand that people don't become teachers for the huge salaries. Autonomy, respect, and a living wage, is enough. Teachers are quitting because in many areas, they aren't getting any of those.
“Teachers have also been subjected to demonization” from people and politicians from both the right and left, said Lawrence Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute and one of the authors of the report, noting that Education Secretary John King in January felt the need to offer what many saw as an apology to teachers after taking over the Education Department. “Despite the best of intentions, teachers and principals have felt attacked and unfairly blamed for the challenges our nation faces as we strive to improve outcomes for all students," King said at the time.

Merit Pay for Teachers Can Lead to Higher Test Scores for Students, a Study Finds

Merit pay is, as Diane Ravitch says, the idea that never works and never dies.

If you define "student learning" simply by a standardized test score, then you might be able to design a merit pay plan which will get higher test scores, but that's not education.

This report in Education Week summarizing research into merit pay, indicates that merit pay helps teachers find ways to increase test scores for some students, oftentimes by learning to "game the system."
Teacher participation in a merit-pay program led to the equivalent of four extra weeks of student learning, according to a new analysis of 44 studies of incentive-pay initiatives in the United States and abroad.

New Merit Pay Study Hits The Wrong Target

Peter Greene follows up on the Education Week report. He emphasizes that testing is not teaching and that "gaming the system" is essentially paying people more who learn how to cheat.

The basis of the research is wrong. Education is not a test score. Learning is not a test score.
Springer's research suffers from the same giant, gaping ridiculous hole as the research that he meta-analyzed-- he assumes that his central measure measures what it claims to measure. This is like meta-analysis of a bunch of research from eight-year-olds who all used home made rulers to measure their own feet and "found" that their feet are twice as big as the feet of eight-year-olds in other country. If you don't ever check their home-made rulers for accuracy, you are wasting everyone's time.

At a minimum, this study shows that the toxic testing that is already narrowing and damaging education in this country can be given a extra jolt of destructive power when backed with money. The best this study can hope to say is that incentives encourage teachers to aim more carefully for the wrong target. As one of the EdWeek commenters put it, "Why on earth would you want to reward teachers with cash for getting higher test scores?" What Springer may have proven is not that merit pay works, but that Campbell's Law does.


EXPERIENCE MATTERS

New Studies Find That, for Teachers, Experience Really Does Matter

Education is more than a test score. Teachers with experience provide more than test prep for their students.
Researchers Helen F. Ladd and Lucy C. Sorenson, both of Duke University, in Durham, N.C., analyzed records from about 1.2 million middle school students in North Carolina from 2007 to 2011, including absences, reported disciplinary offenses, and test scores. The data also contain responses from 6th through 8th graders about time spent on homework and their reading habits...

Regarding nontest outcomes, the data show that as teachers gained experience, they were linked to lower rates of student absenteeism. The researchers postulate that more experienced teachers got better at motivating students and in classroom management, resulting in better attendance and fewer infractions.

✏️📝✏️

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Myth of America's Failing Public Schools - Part 2

Last month I posted The Myth of America's Failing Public Schools. I tried to show that America's average international test scores are low (in the middle of the pack) because of our embarrassingly high rates of child poverty.

Other factors, however, compound the problem of more than 20% of American children living in poverty.


SEGREGATION

A major problem in America's schools, for example, is economic and racial segregation.

Christine Organ writes that we've put low-income kids in separate schools that are definitely not equal.

Public Schools Aren’t Failing Us. We’re Failing Our Schools (And Our Kids).
...we’ve created a system that relegates low-income students to the farthest corners of public education. We’ve created a system that, by design, segregates schools by socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity.
Schools in low-income areas don't have the same resources as schools in wealthier areas. The common complaint about "throwing money at schools won't solve the problems" is usually made by someone whose local schools have enough money to provide an adequate education for their children. Personnel, materials, upkeep and maintenance cost money. When an impoverished neighborhood needs to come up with money to support its local school it's going to have more trouble than a wealthier neighborhood.

She continues...
Instead of taking money away from or closing those schools that serve lower-income students, we need to give them more money. We need stop funding schools with property taxes. We need to provide quality summer school programs, parent education classes, and after-school programs. We need to work on making sure that low-income students aren’t also food insecure or coming to school hungry. We need to stop holding PTA fundraisers where parents can “bid” on time with teachers and other activities that give some kids a leg up. We need to pay teachers more and evaluate them on their performance, not on their students’ test scores.

Of course, this will take additional funding, and if our kids go to a school that benefits from this messed up have/have-not system, they might be asked to give up something. But as they say, equality feels like oppression when you’re used to benefiting from your privilege, so get used to feeling a little bit uncomfortable. We all want what’s best for our children, but that can’t come at the expense of other innocent children when it comes to education.
Those of us who have enough must accept that those who don't have enough need more, and it's up to us to share. We should have learned that in kindergarten, after all. Besides, the children of the nation belong to all of us. They are our future. If we improve the lot of "the least among us" we all benefit from an educated workforce and lower incarceration rates. Even if we increased the amount of money going to schools with low-income students by 25% it would still cost less per child than prison...and higher graduation rates means lower prison rates. We would save money in the long run.

Those with more than enough, the 1% of the population who received the largest portion of the post-2008-recovery wealth, need to share as well.

The point is, we're either one nation or we're not. We're either "in this together" or we're not.


CHOICE

"Choice" is the mantra of the school reformers. They insist that parents should have the choice of where they send their children. The truth, however, is that, when it comes to private and privately run schools, it is the school which chooses its students. Private schools which accept vouchers and charter schools using public funds can either not accept students, "counsel out" those who "are not a good fit" or just expel them outright. In this way, they minimize the number of low achieving students who are allowed entrance. Those children who are rejected often the most expensive to educate. They must then return to the public schools. Public schools accept everyone.

Why selection bias is the most powerful force in education
Selection bias hides everywhere in education. Sometimes, in fact, it is deliberately hidden in education. A few years ago, Reuters undertook an exhaustive investigation of the ways that charter schools deliberately exclude the hardest-to-educate students, despite the fact that most are ostensibly required to accept all kinds of students, as public schools are bound to. For all the talk of charters as some sort of revolution in effective public schooling, what we find is that charter administrators work feverishly to tip the scales, finding all kinds of crafty ways to ensure that they don’t have to educate the hardest students to educate. And even when we look past all of the dirty tricks they use – like, say, requiring parents to attend meetings held at specific times when most working parents can’t – there are all sorts of ways in which students are assigned to charter schools non-randomly and in ways that advantage those schools. Excluding students with cognitive and developmental disabilities is a notorious example. (Despite what many people presume, a majority of students with special needs take state-mandated standardized tests and are included in data like graduation rates, in most locales.) Simply the fact that parents typically have to opt in to charter school lotteries for their students to attend functions as a screening mechanism.


UNIVERSAL PUBLIC EDUCATION

Some countries restrict which students go to school and which students take standardized tests. Not in the U.S. We educate everyone, and everyone, even the most academically challenged students, take "the test." Steven Singer explains...

U.S. Public Schools Are NOT Failing. They’re Among the Best in the World
We have developed a special education system to help children at the edges that many other countries just can’t touch. In some countries these students are simply excluded. In others they are institutionalized. In some countries it’s up to parents to find ways to pay for special services. The United States is one of the only countries where these children are not only included and offered full and free access, but the schools go above and beyond to teach these children well beyond their 12th academic year.

In every public school in the United States these students are included. In math, reading, science and social studies, they are there benefiting from instruction with the rest of the class. And this, in turn, benefits even our non-special education students who gain lessons in empathy and experience the full range of human abilities.

Of course, most of our special education students are also included in our test scores. Yes, other countries that ignore these children and exclude them from testing get higher scores. But so what? Do you mean to tell me this makes them better? No, it makes them worse.
When politicians pander to "reformers" and "reform" minded donors by calling our schools "failures," they do an injustice to America's public schools.

Kelly Day, who blogs at Filling My Map, writes,
It is no accident that academic achievement mirrors the country’s economic structures. We will never fix our broken education system in the U.S. until we fix our broken economic system. Students will continue to fail academically as long as they live in fear, hunger and poverty- no matter what educational reforms or policies we enact.


👨‍🎓🏫👩‍🎓

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

2017 Medley #11

Lead, Defend Public Education, What Tests Measure, Tenure, Recess, Let's Stop Pretending, Choice, 

POISONING CHILDREN

The EPA (at least until the department is destroyed under the current "we don't need clean air or water" administration) says that
...there is no known safe level of lead in a child's blood. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children.
Yet, we don't know how much lead is getting into homes around the nation. Last year, USA Today noted that upwards of six million people are drinking from systems deemed unsafe, but there are likely more than that because of the way we test for lead.
...almost 2,000 water systems serving 6 million people nationwide have failed to meet the EPA's standards for lead in drinking water. But people in thousands more communities deemed in compliance with EPA's lead rules have no assurance their drinking water is safe because of the limited and inconsistent ways water is being tested, the investigation found.
How many of America's schools are labeled as "failing" because their children suffer from lead poisoning? How many children's futures are being damaged by unknown amounts of lead in the water?

Is your water safe?


Michigan, Flint Reach Settlement to Replace Lead Pipes
The settlement still needs to be approved by the federal judge presiding in the case. This sounds like a good start, but we need to recognize that Flint was not the only city that has this problem, nor was it the worst. Testing has revealed similar and even higher levels of lead in cities all over the country. The results are devastating for children, dooming many of them in school because of the effect lead has on their brains as they develop. The fact that it tends to be focused in cities with high minority populations only makes it more difficult for those children and families to escape poverty and have stable, productive lives.

E. Chicago residents wait to leave lead-tainted homes
The complex was home to more than 1,000 people, including about 700 children. Tests by the Indiana Department of Health found high lead levels in blood samples of some children. Even at low levels, exposure can cause nervous system damage and lowered IQs, according to experts.


DEFEND INSTITUTIONS: DEFEND PUBLIC EDUCATION

Defending Public Education from Trump's Tyranny

Russ Walsh reviews Timothy Snyder's On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. Lesson number 2 is Defend Institutions. Snyder writes,
It is institutions that help us to preserve decency. They need our help as well. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you make them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions do not protect themselves. They fall one after the other unless each is defended from the beginning. So choose an institution you care about— a court, a newspaper, a law, a labor union— and take its side.
Walsh, like me, chooses the institution of public education. He writes,
One way we can be sure that Trump and his minions are coming after our institutions is to see who the Tweeter-in-chief has chosen to head up various government departments. Almost to a person (Pruitt, Perry, Price), people who are opposed to the very institutions they are leading have been put in charge. If public education is to survive, we are going to have to fight for it. We cannot sit back and wait for this current nightmare to pass because by the time we wake up, it may be too late. It should be clear to all of us that the institution of public education is under a very real threat from the authoritarian Trump administration and its anti-public schools Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

HOW DO YOU MEASURE COMPASSION?

A Whole Bunch of Things that Standardized Tests Cannot Measure

These thirty things which can't be measured by the BS Test (big standardized test - h/t Peter Greene) are only the tip of the iceberg. Standardized tests, which in Indiana, are used to measure teacher effectiveness, also can't measure a teacher's dedication, her understanding of child development, or his empathy for a child's emotional crises...and more.


CURMUDGUCATION

Below are two posts from Peter Greene who consistently brings clarity to the issues facing America's public schools.

Tenure

MN: Vergara III: The Attack on Tenure Continues

Another attack on tenure...this time in Minnesota. Let me repeat it once more: "Tenure," for K-12 teachers does not mean a job for life. It simply means due process. How do you get rid of "bad teachers?" Hire good administrators.
The plaintiffs are four moms from Minnesota (you get a picture here of how PEJ "found" them), including lead plaintiff Tiffani Forslund, a charter school teacher currently running for a seat on city council. Since the days of Vergara, the people crafting these lawsuits have learned to angle more toward Saving Poor Children, because it's much easier to attract teachers to underfunded schools with tough populations when you can promise those teachers that they will have no job security at all. The lawsuit wants to implement a solution of "protecting our best teachers and replacing low-performing teachers with effective teachers" which seems magical and simple and completely unrelated to whether or not teachers have tenure.
Recess

FL: Recess Is For Babies

"Florida government-- what the hell is wrong with you?"

That's the question Curmudgucation asks at the end of this post. Why is the state deciding how much time children should spend at recess? Shouldn't that be left to professionals who understand child development...people like pediatricians, child psychologists, or teachers?

Apparently the Florida legislature believes that the length of time children spend at recess has an impact on their test scores. Test scores are the most important thing in Florida (see also Curmudgucation's post, FL: Court Rules in Favor of Stupid) and elsewhere. If test scores are low it must be the fault of teachers, which means children must be punished.

Voting against twenty minutes a day for recess for five year olds...insanity.
But a Florida House of Representatives subcommittee yesterday decided that twenty minutes a day is just too generous...

The amended version of the bill cuts the requirement for recess back to only those days without phys ed, and limits it to grades K-3 only, because once you get to be nine years old, it's time to get down to business, you little slackers! It's also bad news for phys ed teachers, because it allows schools to count recess as part of their phys ed time-- in other words, Florida thinks you phys ed teachers are just glorified recess monitors.


TRUTH

Can We Please Stop Pretending …?

Let's stop pretending that politicians, legislators, and other policy makers have any clue about what makes a good school.

Let's stop pretending that those same politicians, legislators and policy makers are not directly responsible for much that happens in America's classrooms.

Let's stop pretending that money doesn't matter.

Rob Miller has more...
For no other reason than I’ve grown weary of thinking and writing about the Oklahoma budget crisis, I decided to dust off my original list and add about 65 more items that literally poured forth from my brain. Sorry, but I get a little snarky towards the end...
  1. That all 5-year-olds arrive at the schoolhouse ready to learn.
  2. That policy-makers who have never taught or earned an education degree know more than the practitioners who work with kids every day.
  3. That charter schools that accept the same students as public schools achieve better results.
  4. That class size doesn’t matter.
  5. That higher academic standards will automatically result in more kids being college and career ready.


CHOICE: SEARCHING FOR A GOOD SCHOOL

The masquerade of school choice: a parent’s story

Here is a story of a parent trying to choose the best school for her child. Wouldn't it be nice if the U.S., like Finland and other high achieving nations, provided high quality public schools in every town and neighborhood? Students and their neighborhoods benefit from the stability of public schools. Unfortunately, we're so concerned with figuring out how we can privatize public schools in order to line the pockets of edupreneurs, that we have, in many areas, given up on the public schools.
I navigated the school choice maze as a university professor with good income, flexible hours, reliable transportation, and a strong parent network. Imagine the process of school choice for parents of students attending failing schools, with limited income, or relying on public transportation.

Don’t let school choice trick you. The best way to provide quality across social class, race and ethnicity is to invest in public schools.



CHOICE: SCHOOLS MAKE THE CHOICE

Conservatives to DeVos: Be careful what you wish for on school choice

From USA Today.

In this article, Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute said that school choice allows families to "vote with their feet."

That's wrong.

School choice allows families to use their "feet" to look for schools which will accept their children. Schools make the choice, not the students.
Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute agreed, adding that a federal voucher or tax credit “can essentially push out of the way programs that have been created by states … and that kills what Justice (Louis) Brandeis called ‘laboratories of democracy.’ We want to have states trying different ways of trying to deliver education and school choice, so we can see what works well, what works well for specific populations.”

Noting that school choice allows families to “vote with their feet” by choosing another school, he added, “The way you vote with your feet against the federal government is you’ve got to move to another country, which can be somewhat onerous.”

Petrilli said accepting federal funding could be most painful to private — and especially religious — schools, which will face “really difficult choices.” Would the funding force them to accept LGBTQ students — or teachers, for that matter — against their religious beliefs?

“They just won’t participate,” he said. “And then what’s the point? You don’t have a program.”

🚌🚌🚌